Print

On 11 December 2017, significant amendments will come into force altering the power of the police to detain people who appear to be suffering from mental disorder. This blog post is intended to highlight the fact of the amendments, outline some key changes and point to sources of further information. 

The relevant powers are currently contained in sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (“MHA”). Section 135 requires the grant of a warrant by a magistrate; s136 does not.

From 11 December 2017 there will be in force:

The amendments are made by Chapter 4 (ss80-83) of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which come into force by virtue of regulation 3 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (Commencement No. 4 and Saving Provisions) Regulations 2017 (“the Commencement Regulations”).

The Department of Health and the Home Office have published guidance on the new law: "Guidance for the implementation of changes to police powers and places of safety provisions in the mental health act 1983" (October 2017) (“the Guidance”). Paragraph 1.8 summarises the main changes to the police powers and places of safety provisions as follows:

Significantly, a police station may never be used as a place of safety for anyone under 18, and the Places of Safety Regulations 2017 set out extremely onerous requirements which must be met before a police station may be used as a place of safety for an adult. The key requirements are that:

Examples of further requirements are as follows:

The Guidance makes clear at paragraph 3.1 that: 

“…The expectation remains that, with limited exceptions, the person’s needs will most appropriately be met by taking them to a ‘health-based’ place of safety - a dedicated section 136 suite where they can be looked after by properly trained and qualified mental health and other medical professionals…”

The changes do not apply to cases already in train on 11 December 2017, a s135 warrant was issued or a s136 removal started. See regulation 4 of the Commencement Regulations and Annex A of the Guidance.

The amendments are considered in detail from the perspective of the police by Michael Brown who blogs at mentalhealthcop.wordpress.com (see “The PACA Series”) and tweets at twitter.com/MentalHealthCop. Thanks are due to Michael for providing extremely helpful advance information following his contact with the Home Office as to when the amendments were likely to come into force.